Calling for Growth
Sectors of the call center industry did more than show surprising resilience in the downturn—they actually thrived and added job growth across the economy.
As with many of the industrial sectors in the U.S. today, economic news about the call center/IT/data center industry is a mixed bag in terms of growth. The good news is that according to the National Association of Call Centers (NACC), which tracks the call center industry globally, more call center jobs were gained in the U.S. in the fourth quarter of 2009 than lost. This news also was bolstered by the fact that it was a part of a three-quarter-long recovery. The bad news was that the number of call center openings versus closings was down. According to the NACC, the largest growth in call center jobs came from the Financial Services Sector.
King White, president of Site Selection Group, a location consulting firm that focuses on call center and back office site selection globally, reported in July, 2009 that unlike other sectors of the economy, certain sectors of the call center labor market were flourishing; what’s driving them is a demand for business process outsourcing (BPO) and accounts receivable management (ARM) services.
“This [was] probably the strongest month we’ve had in 12 to 18 months,” White said of the jump in June. “We had huge numbers, 20,000 total jobs created, which is what it was during the peak of the economy two years ago.”
According to Site Selection Group’s research, 20,485 new jobs were created in the industry worldwide with 56% of those jobs located in the U.S., and the BPO industry led the way with 15,560 jobs. The financial services industry and debt collection services industry also added jobs at this time.
The economic downturn also shifted the way call center site selection has been occurring. Many large corporations laid off employees and closed divisions such as customer service, financing and collections, preferring to outsource these functions instead. However all of these functions still must be performed for customers. This is what’s provided the growth in BPO and ARM call centers, according to Susan Arledge, president/CEO of Arledge Partners Real Estate Group. It creates a specific necessity for “plug and play” properties where companies can be operational quickly without a large capital outlay. Arledge says her company tracks several million square feet of these types of locations.
“There are many former contact center properties that had been operational or had been built but never occupied when corporate plans changed or client contracts fell through,” says Arledge. “If the labor market is right, these buildings provide a great opportunity. If the former tenants have done their site selection work carefully, the communities were selected for the workforce and may be the same quality you are seeking. Often the switches and the wiring are already in place; the centers may still have workstations.”
The NACC says North Carolina and Georgia have shown strong growth in call center jobs and there are numerous locations around the U.S. who are looking to lure more call or data center jobs to their own state. Here are a few of the locations that are excited to show you what they can do when you choose to expand or relocate to their area.
San Antonio, TX: Hotbed of Info Tech Activity
Last year, the Air Force Space Command moved its cyber command, the 24th Air Force to Lackland Airforce Base in San Antonio to secure the military’s communication and data systems. That move brought a boon to San Antonio’s bustling defense contracting industry. It also added 400 highly skilled jobs with annual salaries ranging between $70,000 and $75,000 to the Alamo city.
The new mission could lead San Antonio-based EADS North America Defense Security and Systems Solutions Inc. to add 50 to 75 jobs in the next year to 18 months, says Larry Gosser, company spokesman. The company conducts cyber training courses that teach network administrators how to secure their computer systems and to defend against attacks.
“Software and hardware alone are not enough to prevent an attack,’’ says Eric Franey, EADS North America’s director of product management. “Every system is vulnerable.”
That’s why cyber security is a growing industry. San Antonio is a hotbed of cyber security activity with dozens of military contractors specializing in information security, including L-3 Communications, Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI, SAIC, SecureLogix and Southwest Research Institute.
A big boost to the city’s IT cyber security industry comes from the National Security Agency (NSA), which established a large data center and campus at the former Sony chip manufacturing plant. The NSA already had 2,000 employees at its Texas Cryptology Center at Lackland. The agency has announced plans to create an estimated 1,500 more jobs at its new center at Loop 410 and Military Drive.
But cyber security isn’t the only information technology (IT) activity going on in San Antonio. IT has an $8 billion economic impact on San Antonio and has seen a 20% growth increase since 2005, which means it’s doubled since the last decade. In 1998 IT had an economic impact of about $4 billion—in 2008 it had an economic impact of $8 billion.
The number of IT employees in San Antonio has grown 44% in the last decade. In 2008, the IT industry paid $882 in salaries to nearly 16 thousand employees in San Antonio. The average salary in the IT industry is $56,000. The IT industry offers good jobs and good wages and it’s a growing industry in San Antonio!
Wyoming Push for Data Centers Rolls On
One of the world’s largest super computers will locate there, one of the nation’s largest data centers is looking and another sizeable data center is under construction. Quite a bit of activity for Cheyenne, WY—population 56,000.
The National Center for Atmospheric Research, (NCAR) announced that it has selected Cheyenne, WY as the home for their next generation super computer with construction scheduled for mid 2010. An as yet unidentified fortune 50 company has identified Cheyenne, WY and at least one other US site as a possible home for one of the nations largest data centers. A new 10,000 sf raised floor data center has started construction in Cheyenne.
These facilities have identified the main advantages for Cheyenne. Most of the long haul fiber carriers follow interstate or rail easements. Cheyenne is at the crossroads of two interstates and two rail lines, providing access to most national data carriers.
Wyoming’s largest export is energy and competitively priced electricity is ample. Legislation was just passed in early March, 2010 to exempt data center computers and server equipment from sales tax, combined with Wyoming’s overall tax structure makes Wyoming one of the most competitive locations in the nation. The Cheyenne, WY area is one of the nations lowest risk areas based on all Federal risk categories. Ample water is provided by a series of reservoirs and access to a large aquifer.
Cheyenne’s elevation of over 6,100 feet, arid climate and temperatures that don’t exceed 100° Fahrenheit, have allowed NCAR to design one of the most efficient computer facilities in the world (see http://www.cisl.ucar.edu/
nwsc/sustainability/). Data centers can take advantage of the climates free cooling capacity without increased climatic dangers associated with more northern climates.
Wyoming’s two largest exports have long been energy and well educated youth. This has encouraged the State to create a very data center friendly environment. The States ample natural resources will ensure a long term electric supply from a variety of sources—coal, natural gas and wind. The fiber capacity is available from multiple carriers with independent routes. Cheyenne, WY is one of the shining examples of how opening a data center in the Nations Midwest can both greatly reduce costs and risks.